GLENDALE, Ariz. - Olli Jokinen didn't need much time to make an impression with his new team.
He had a first-period goal and assist in his Phoenix debut Saturday night and the Coyotes went on to win their season opener, 3-1 over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Coyotes' Keith Yandle scored the most spectacular goal of the night, a slapshot from just inside the blue-line for Phoenix's third goal with 13:16 left in the second period.
Peter Mueller had the other goal for the Coyotes.
Phoenix acquired Jokinen from Florida for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a second-round pick on the second day of the draft, looking for veteran leadership for a young team.
"We came out flying," Jokinen said. "We had a lot of energy out there. A lot of guys were playing their first game, and almost the whole first period was good hockey for us."
The Finnish centre scored the Coyotes' first goal 12 seconds after he stepped out of the penalty box, where he had served two minutes for hooking.
He took a pass from 19-year-old Kyle Turris near the top of the left circle on a power play and wristed a shot past Columbus goalie Pascal Leclair just over six minutes into the game for his 209th career goal.
Jokinen praised the youngster's play.
"It looked like the guy's been in the league for 10 years," Jokinen said, "and that was his fourth game."
Phoenix scored on another power play to make it 2-0, Jokinen passing to Mueller, who scored from the left point with 1:47 to go in the first.
Columbus couldn't recover from eight first-period penalties.
"You can't take penalties on the road like we did," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We constantly dug ourselves into a hole. I thought we came alive in the second period, but their third goal was a killer."
The Blue Jackets' Rick Nash screened Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to clear the way for Derick Brassard's goal that cut it to 2-1 with 15:50 left in the second.
Columbus was without centre Michael Peca, who was suspended indefinitely for making contact with an official in Columbus' season-opening 5-4 overtime victory in Dallas on Friday night. Peca is appealing the suspension.
"He is such a big player for us and has tons of experience in the locker room and on the ice," Nash said. "But we also have guys that can step up and play."
Nash missed consecutive breakaway shots early in the second period for Columbus.
He praised Bryzgalov's defence, to a point.
"He came out and cut angles, but I also missed," Nash said. "I had opportunities and missed the net."
Two referees were needed to stop a fight between Phoenix's Daniel Winnick and Columbus' Derek Dorsett with just under six minutes left in the first period. Each drew seven minutes in penalties. Winnick, judged by the officials to be the instigator, also got a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
"He jumped in for his teammate," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We're not going to back down. There's no question about that."
Winnick left the game with a bloody face with just over three minutes to go. Replays showed he was hit in the face with a stick, but no penalty was called. Dorsett also got into a scuffle with Yandle with 2 1/2 minutes to go.
Columbus' Jiri Novotny left with an apparent shoulder injury after being slammed into the boards by Shane Doan with eight minutes left in the game.
Notes: Jokinen played in his 377th consecutive game, the NHL's second-longest active streak behind Andrew Brunette of Minnesota at 453. ... Columbus won both of its games in Phoenix last season. ... The Coyotes play their next four on the road. ... The Blue Jackets are at San Jose on Tuesday, then play their home opener against Nashville on Friday.
The Capitals are all-in and the acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk put the rest of the Metropolitan on notice. Will the other top teams in the division answer back? And if so, how?
The Capitals seemed a long shot to land Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, so much so that Washington really wasn’t even all that much on the radar for the rearguard until mere hours before he was dealt to the Metropolitan Division leaders. And even when the rumor mill started to heat up speculating the Capitals could be in on Shattenkirk, it still seemed like there would be no way it actually came to pass.
But did the Capitals ever put the rest of the division on notice when they managed to pull the trigger on a deal that, in the eyes of many, could very well put them over the top. All it cost to pick up Shattenkirk at the cost of two drafts picks, Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. If that’s enough to put the Capitals into the winner’s circle come season’s end, it was more than worth the price.
Don’t go thinking the rest of the division will go without a response, however. The battle for Metropolitan supremacy has been the toughest in the league this season, and with four other teams from the group in the hunt for the playoffs, there’s no doubt going to be some moves made as a reaction to the Capitals’ splash with the trade deadline fast approaching.
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
The Penguins were actually the first squad in the division to make a move, but it was as much out of necessity as it was in effort to take top spot in the Metropolitan. With Olli Maatta hitting the shelf with a hand injury and Kris Letang sidelined day-to-day with an upper-body ailment, Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford looked to his old stomping grounds in Carolina and picked up Hurricanes blueliner Ron Hainsey. That likely isn’t everything the Penguins do with the deadline approaching, however.
Realistically, the Penguins could still do with adding another depth blueliner, even if he doesn’t see the ice all that often. Security on the back end would be a nice thing to have going into the playoffs, especially with the Capitals loading up. It’s clear that’s of interest to the Penguins, too, as they were reportedly in on Shattenkirk, as well.
It wouldn’t be out of the question for Pittsburgh to also look to see if there’s a way to add another depth scorer to the roster, either. One of the most important facets of the Penguins’ run to the Cup in 2015-16 was their depth scoring. Players such as Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl and Conor Sheary stepped up at the right time. Jake Guentzel has been playing lights out of late, but maybe there’s another cheap piece to be added somewhere. A cheap scorer, maybe Radim Vrbata or P-A Parenteau, could fit the bill.
The Penguins have all the top-end skill a team needs to compete in the post-season, but the make or break factor could be ensuring there’s not even the slightest hole in their lineup. That’s what it’s going to take to win the Metropolitan, too.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are having what projects to be the most successful regular season in franchise history. The shame is, though, the 16-game win streak has been followed by a 12-10-1 stretch. Columbus is above .500 since their outstanding run, sure, but few would put them in the same conversation as the Capitals or the Penguins. The question then has to be what the Blue Jackets can do to put them into true contention for the Metropolitan crown.
Up until Tuesday, the Blue Jackets had stood pat, and the only move the team has made to potentially improve leading up to the deadline was Tuesday’s signing of Marc-Andre Bergeron. The 36-year-old blueliner isn’t exactly the kind of player who’s about to come aboard and make all that much of a difference, though, and there’s no telling if he even gets any NHL games under his belt this season. This is to say the Bergeron signing, while nice for the veteran rearguard, doesn’t move the needle for Columbus.
The Blue Jackets could use another defender, though. It’d be tough to make any of the high-priced defensemen work, but one option could be New Jersey Devils defender Kyle Quincey. He’s not carrying a massive cap hit — $1.25 million and a UFA at the end of the season — and could easily skate middle- or bottom-pairing minutes for Columbus. He has playoff experience and he’s got some offense to his game, providing four goals and 12 points this season.
However, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if the Blue Jackets stand pat, for the most part. This is a growing team with a lot of talented, young pieces. Their window isn’t all the way open yet, and there’s no reason to go all-in yet. Building off this strong season would be as good as trading away assets in a division they’re unfortunately unlikely to win.
New York Rangers
The Rangers might just have to wait for the off-season to get Shattenkirk, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to add the blueliner they’re after. New York was reportedly interested in Detroit’s Brendan Smith even before Shattenkirk came off the board, and the Rangers carried out the deal with the Red Wings Tuesday afternoon by sending a pair of draft picks the other way.
Smith isn’t Shattenkirk, that much is clear. The Capitals pulled in an 11-goal, 42-point rearguard, and the Rangers answered back with one who has two goals and five points. What Smith can do, however, is play significant minutes somewhere in the Rangers’ bottom two pairings. They desperately needed someone to do so, too. And even with Smith, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for the Rangers to keep looking at defensemen, even if it means sacrificing some offense in a trade. New York has 203 goals for, which is the second-best mark in both the league and division. Their 162 goals against are 11th in the league, though, and the back end doesn’t exactly strike one as the most fierce in the division.
What the Rangers need most is someone who can reliably share the top-pairing minutes with Ryan McDonagh. Right now, there’s a nearly four-minute gap between McDonagh’s average ice time and that of Nick Holden, who’s second on the club with 20:37 per game. Smith probably doesn’t skate alongside McDonagh or average near the same ice time. Quincey could be an option, or maybe the Rangers consider someone along the lines of Johnny Oduya.
Finding a top-two guy is almost impossible, especially with Shattenkirk off the board, but having someone to help share the top minutes with McDonagh would be a boon for the Rangers.
New York Islanders
Unlike the Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers, the Islanders aren’t in the conversation to win the Metropolitan. However, they stand a chance of competing against their divisional rivals if they sneak into the post-season in the second wild-card spot. That would mean a date with the Capitals, and if the Islanders want to be able to put up a fight, they’re going to need to make some additions.
The Islanders aren’t in the same position as the other teams within the division in that they’re quite set on the back end. Having a top three of Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic, when he returns from injury, makes for quite the blueline, and while the bottom three of Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey aren’t without their flaws, it’s not a bad way to round out the defense. Adding another piece back there could help, absolutely, but it’s not a big-time must.
Adding some scoring to the lineup is, however. The Islanders rank 10th in the league in scoring with 179 goals, but that’s almost entirely because of John Tavares and Anders Lee. More than a quarter of the team’s goals have come from those two players, both of whom have 23 markers this season, and a top three scorers that consist of Tavares, Lee and Josh Bailey isn’t exactly Murderers’ Row.
Making the money work wouldn’t be easy, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see Duchene land with the Islanders? Giving Tavares a speedy, 30-goal player to work alongside could give New York a solid 1-2 punch on offense. But if the Islanders want a short-term fix to try and get into the playoffs and make some noise, they wouldn’t go wrong with Vrbata or Parenteau. Maybe they even try bringing Thomas Vanek back. Just three seasons ago, he scored 17 goals and 44 points in 47 games while playing primarily with Tavares as his center.
With 10 pending free agents and the salary cap not expected to increase the Capitals will have a hard time keeping the band together. So it's now or never for their Cup hopes.
When the Washington Capitals drafted Alex Ovechkin first overall in 2004, the foundation for a championship team was set firmly in place. They progressively built a Murderers’ Row of talent that, at one time, looked as though it had the makings of a dynasty.
Which brings us to their acquisition of the crown jewel of the NHL trade deadline, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, Monday night. It’s a game-changer for the already-stacked Capitals to be sure, one that gives them another talented right-handed defenseman who can move the puck, play the power play and is good in his own end. In making the deal, the Capitals have unequivocally stated that their time to win is now.
And they’re right because that’s exactly what it is. If you think previous Capital teams were under pressure to win a championship, that was nothing compared to the expectation the 2016-17 squad faces. This team was a Stanley Cup favorite before acquiring Shattenkirk, but after their bold move at the deadline, anything short of a Stanley Cup parade will be considered a complete failure.
But compounding this is a whole other layer of pressure that hasn’t been discussed much to this point. And that is, if this Capitals team manages to win the Stanley Cup this spring, it would not be a stretch to suggest the franchise that once held out hopes for a dynasty could very well become a one-and-done in the same vein the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks have been in the salary cap era.
And that’s a shame because it puts even more pressure on this group to win now. The failures of past teams in the playoffs are going to be carried by this group, a team that will face the challenge of erasing those bad memories in one playoff year. The Capitals’ inability not only to seriously contend for the Stanley Cup, but to even get out of the second round of the playoffs all those years, is going to be a demon this particular group of players must exorcise.
That window to win that was once so wide is closing quickly and dramatically, to the point that if the Capitals don’t win the Cup this spring, you have to wonder when they ever will again.
Now it’s not unheard of for a team to face the prospect of having 10 pending unrestricted and restricted free agents on their roster. It happens quite a bit actually. But it is unique for a team to have as many impact players facing free agency and as little cap space to either re-sign or replace them as the Caps have. Not including Nate Schmidt, who has almost certainly been knocked out of Washington’s top six defensemen with the addition of Shattenkirk, the Capitals face the prospect of having half their top 12 forwards, top six defensemen and two goaltenders on expiring contracts.
Consider first that with Shattenkirk now on their roster, the Capitals now stand to have three of the most coveted unrestricted free agents of the summer in Shattenkirk, fellow defenseman Karl Alzner and winger T.J. Oshie. Whether Alzner and Oshie are underpaid or not is probably a matter of preference, but both will undoubtedly be looking for raises.
Alzner, who has made just $2.8 million per year the past four seasons, will almost be certainly looking to cash in on a long-term deal at the age of 28. Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik are the only other UFAs the Capitals have, but they also have Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer to re-sign as RFAs.
And assuming the salary cap stays the same, they have only about $21 million to do it. If it goes down, as some have suggested it might, the Capitals are in even more trouble. When you look at it from that perspective, the band is breaking up. There is no doubt about that.
It would be different if the Capitals were flush with NHL-ready prospects who could come in and fill those roles, the way the young players in Chicago have made it possible for the Blackhawks to negotiate the salary cap like a tightrope, paying their veteran core players huge money and leaving the scraps to their young players who are not yet in a position to command big money. But the Capitals prospects are just good, not great. In THN’s annual Future Watch edition, the Capitals group of prospects ranked 20th overall, a group that was diminished by one when useful NHL prospect Zach Sanford was included in the Shattenkirk deal. Their best prospect is Ilya Samsonov and that would be great if Samsonov were not a goaltender. Jakub Vrana is a future NHLer to be sure, but it drops off after that. And the Capitals have clearly and deliberately mortgaged their future, dealing away their first three picks from this draft.
Any team with talent that includes the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby will contend, but how seriously depends upon the supporting cast around them and that supporting cast will be diminished after this season. Both Ovechkin and Backstrom will be on the other side of 30 very soon, as is Matt Niskanen, while 36-year-old Brooks Orpik is on a contract that is not at all team-friendly for two more years. That one is going to sting whether the Capitals stick with him through to the end of the deal or buy him out this summer.
If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, that first-rounder to St. Louis will be the 31st pick overall, which until the summer of 2017, was considered a second-round pick. And that’s where the Capitals are banking that pick will be. And if that happens it will have all worthwhile been worthwhile because they’ll have finally skated off into the sunset with the Stanley Cup. That would be great, because it might be the only one they win for a long, long time.
The Sharks are still trying for that elusive Stanley Cup title, while the Canucks are building for the future in this win-win trade
Winning the Stanley Cup one year after losing the final series is very difficult. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it back in 2009 and now San Jose is in that position. With the acquisition of right winger Jannik Hansen, the Sharks have added one more weapon to an already potent lineup.
San Jose grabbed Hansen from Vancouver in exchange for prospect left winger Nikolay Goldobin and an interesting conditional pick: a fourth-rounder in 2017 that becomes a first-round selection, should the Sharks win the Cup. So we know who Vancouver will be cheering for this summer.
"Jannik is a versatile, gritty player who plays with speed and is talented on both sides of the puck," said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. "We think he is a perfect fit for the style of our team.”
Indeed, speed will likely be imperative in the playoffs, as it was last year when the Penguins skated circles around the competition (including the Sharks). San Jose already brought in another burner before this campaign began in Mikkel Boedker and although he hasn’t been a real difference-maker so far, every bit of depth counts in the post-season. Add in ascending rookie Kevin Labanc and you’ve got a decent amount of new blood on a squad led by the impressive veteran core of Brent Burns (a Hart trophy candidate), Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
With Thornton and suddenly-spry Sharks lifer Patrick Marleau in the twilights of their careers, San Jose is really making one last stand here before the mantle gets completely passed to Pavelski, Burns and Couture. And they could pull it off.
For Vancouver, GM Jim Benning continues to have a good deadline with this deal. The Canucks have already amassed a very nice pool of prospects and Goldobin could slide into the NHL lineup right now. He’s a skilled, creative playmaker whose weak spots are defense, but he has been working on rounding out his game in the AHL and the Sharks were pleased with his progress. Add him to a Canucks future centered around Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko among others and all of a sudden, Vancouver’s looking pretty good in a few years. Now, they have five picks in the first four rounds this summer and potentially two first-rounders, should the Sharks triumph.
San Jose and Vancouver definitely caught each other at the right time on this deal.
The Canadiens did well in landing Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson, but the Steve Ott trade is puzzling, even if it didn’t cost Montreal all that much to make the acquisition.
If the Canadiens needed anything at the deadline, it was depth defensemen and maybe an additional bottom-six piece who could contribute up front. They accomplished the former by acquiring Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson, both of whom can contribute to the team’s defense. However, Montreal’s lone move to add to their offense thus far was a deal that sent a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Steve Ott, and it’s downright puzzling why the Canadiens made the deal.
There will be no shortage of talk about what Ott brings to the Canadiens, which is a certain element of physical play, peskiness and well-researched trash talk. He also brings with a veteran presence up front that the Canadiens didn’t really have much of before Ott’s addition. Tomas Plekanec is 34 and Torrey Mitchell is 32, but Ott, 34, has the ability to bring that veteran voice to the team’s fourth line. He seems to be beloved by his teammates everywhere he goes, too, and that doesn’t count for nothing.
It’s also worth noting that what the Canadiens gave up, the sixth-round selection, will almost certainly amount to nothing. Over the past 10 drafts, only eight players drafted in the sixth round have gone on to score more than 100 points in the NHL. There are some diamonds in the rough to be found, but even if Detroit does turn the pick into something, there’s a fair chance Montreal would have gone a different route, taken a different player and the pick would have gone bust.
But even after all of that is taken into account, it’s hard to say why exactly Montreal went after Ott.
One of the more immediately confounding aspects of the trade is that much of what Ott brings can be found in other players on the Canadiens. When it comes to the off-ice intangibles, you can look to any number of the players in the lineup for the leadership qualities that Ott may have been brought in for, specifically captain Max Pacioretty and alternate Shea Weber, who was in part acquired because he had that ability to lead by example. When it comes to the grittiness and peskiness that Ott can bring, Andrew Shaw and, to a lesser extent, Brendan Gallagher are the go-to guys on the Canadiens. And as far as fourth-line minutes go, it doesn’t make sense to try to compete in the speedy East with a grind-line type of player like Ott.
It’s worth comparing what Ott stands to bring to what Shaw can provide, too, as some see them as similar players, and if one is in the lineup, it’s hard to say what the use for the other is. Shaw has registered nine goals and 22 points in 50 games for the Canadiens this season, and his .44 points per game rate is better than any mark Ott has provided in the past four campaigns. And there’s only a slim chance that Ott does much to provide any scoring punch during his time in Montreal. Through 42 games with the Red Wings, albeit one of the league’s lowest scoring teams, Ott had three goals and six points. He was averaging roughly 10:30 in ice time per game, whereas Shaw is close to a 15-minute per game player who has seen time on the power play.
It goes beyond the pure offense when comparing a player such as Shaw to Ott, though. Even the underlying numbers for Ott aren’t nearly as favorable as Shaw’s. At 5-on-5, Ott had a Corsi For percentage of 44.9 to Shaw’s 55.3. Ott’s expected goals for percentage was 37 in Detroit, while Shaw is currently at 51.8 during his first season in Montreal. While on ice, Shaw saw 53.6 percent of the total scoring chances. Ott, on the other hand, saw a mere 31.7 go the Red Wings’ way this season. And total goals for percentage at 5-on-5, Shaw had a nearly 20 percent edge on Ott at 51.2 to 31.6.
One thought that may be crossing the mind of Canadiens fans trying to seek an understanding of the trade is that Shaw has shown a certain proclivity for taking an ill-timed penalty here or there. That’d be true, and Shaw’s antics have gotten him in some trouble this season with the Department of Player Safety while Ott has kept his nose relatively clean. Overall, however, Shaw has actually managed a better penalty differential. At 5-on-5, Ott is in the positives, drawing eight more penalties than he’s taken, but that’s still two behind Shaw.
And if we’re talking intangibles and past playoff experience, Shaw still has the edge. His 67 games in the post-season are 12 more than Ott, and it’s not even fair to compare the offensive contributions. Shaw, who won two Stanley Cups during his time in Chicago, has 16 goals and 35 playoff points to his name, whereas Ott has mustered three goals and eight points. The playoff experience simply isn’t there with someone like Ott, nor is the history of production or grand contribution in the post-season.
It’s not as if Ott’s $800,000 salary breaks the bank, but it does put a dent in what the Canadiens have left over to spend on deadline day, especially with no money going the other way in the deal. That’s money that could have been used to add a depth scorer, something they could use in the high-flying East. And with a player like Shaw already in the lineup, it’s hard to say what Montreal GM Marc Bergevin saw that necessitated a deal for Ott.
No one will go as far to say the trade will prevent the Canadiens from truly competing for the Cup, but acquiring Ott didn’t really do all that much to improve Montreal’s chances.